Illinois 64, Indiana 54 (final)
INDIANAPOLIS — Tracy Abrams had 25 points to lead ninth-seeded Illinois to a 64-54 win over eight-seed Indiana on Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Illini (19-13) used runs of 9-0 in the first half and 11-0 in the second half to improve to 6-2 all-time against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament.
The victory sends Illinois into a second-round matchup on Friday with Big Ten regular season champion No. 8 Michigan.
Abrams stymied a late rally by the Hoosiers (17-15) with a three-pointer and two free throws that turned a late 53-52 Illinois lead into a 58-52 advantage.
Rayvonte Rice added 13 points and Kendrick Nunn scored 10 for the Illini.
Yogi Ferrell led the Hoosiers with 14 points. Will Sheehey added 13 points — 11 of them in the first half — and Troy Williams scored 11 for Indiana.
Illinois opened the game with a 9-0 run, taking advantage of Indiana’s cold shooting and carelessness with the ball. The Hoosiers missed their first nine shots and had nine turnovers in the first half.
But Indiana answered with a 14-2 run, capped by a Ferrell three-pointer, to take its first lead.
It didn’t last long, with Noah Vonleh being called for goaltending on a basket by Rice which put the Illini back in front 15-14.
Illinois led 30-28 at halftime. Indiana was 6-of-10 on three-pointers in the first half but just 2-of-13 inside the arc.
Troy Williams tied the game at 30 early in the second half on a dunk, then the Hoosiers took a 32-30 lead on two free throws by Stanford Robinson.
1 down 3 to go...
— Michael Finke (@Finke_Michael) March 13, 2014
Robinson, who was 0-for-2 from the line in the first half, was 4-of-4 in the second half.
The Hoosiers built a 38-33 lead to open the second half, but the Illini rallied to tie the game.
— Brian Moline (@BMolineWDWS) March 13, 2014
Abrams missed two free throws that would have given Illinois the lead. But a second goaltending call on Vonleh, again on a Rice shot, put Illinois in front 40-38.
The Illini would stretch the lead to 44-38, prompting an Indiana timeout. Vonleh got free inside for a dunk, but the Hoosiers left Jon Ekey open for a three-pointer that put the Illini in front 47-40.
Ferrell hit two free throws, Sheehey hit a jumper and Ferrell scored on a drive that pulled Indiana within 47-46.
Abrams answered with a three to make it 50-46 Illinois.
— Richard McBride (@Coachmcbride33) March 13, 2014
Williams scored on a putback to make it 50-48, but Indiana could get no closer than 53-52.
Abrams then scored the next five points to secure the victory.
Illinois improved to 5-1 in first-round games in the Big Ten Tournament and won as the No. 9 seed for the first time. The Hoosiers fell to 10-17 in the conference tournament and fell to 1-2 as the No. 8 seed.
No. 9 Illinois 38, No. 8 Indiana 38 — 11:33 second half
Brandon Paul got fired up when Tracy Abrams got the bucket and foul at the 12:30 mark. Paul said it’s tough watching his buddies play.
Abrams is currently on a personal 5-0 run and he’ll be at the free throw line after the under-12 timeout.
Jon Ekey’s three-pointer at 15:07 represented the first points for the Illini in the second half. The Illini started 1 for 12 shooting in the half.
Indiana’s game plan for the second half, it appears, is to just drive the ball right at Illinois defenders. It’s been very effective. Indiana has kept Illinois in it by turning the ball over on the regular.
Rayvonte Rice picked up his third foul early in the half, forcing him to the bench less than two minutes in. Illinois caught a break at the 14:50
mark when a foul that looked like it was going to be against Rice was called against Kendrick Nunn.
Indiana fans didn’t like the offensive foul called against Noah Vonleh.
They couldn’t have been serious.
There was supposed to be a game during the under-16 timeout with three Indiana fans shooting jumpshots for some sort of prize. Only problem is, there were no basketballs to be shot. It was a lot like the presume warmup. The guys shot some air jumpers before they called it off.
No. 9 Illinois 30, No. 8 Indiana 28 — Halftime
With Abrams needing a break, Illinois went to Rayvonte Rice for a stretch at the point guard spot. On his first PG possession, Rice got to the bucket and shot Illinois’ first free throws of the game with 5:12 left. Illinois went about five minutes between field goals midway through the half. Kendrick Nunn ended the drought.
Indy or Chicago? Tell Tom Kacich which city is the better host here
Will Sheehey has been hot of late for the Hoosiers and he appears to be locked inhere today. The senior had eight of Indiana’s first 14 points, including a pair of threes.
Conner Groce called Malcolm Hill’s second three-pointer. “A three’s coming, I know it,” as Hill caught the ball. “Here it comes… Yes, I told you!”
When Joseph Bertrand turned Will Sheehey over in front of the Illinois bench, John Groce delivered one of those explosive fist pumps.
Maverick Morgan has been holding his own in the post guarding Noah Vonleh, spelling Nnanna Egwu.
Heady move late in the half by Malcolm Hill drawing a foul on a three-point attempt. He’s very good at using the shot fake and the fact that he had already made two threes makes it tough not to challenge those shots.
At least twice Tracy Abrams got caught guarding Vonleh in the post. Twice he forced turnovers. He’s tough.
Vonleh didn’t score his first basket until the last two minutes. He only had four points in the last meeting.
Abrams complained to Scirotto against. Scirotto pointed and told him that was enough. “I didn’t mean to do that, it was just emotion,” Abrams explained to Scirotto. They seem cool with one another.
It was a bad call. Groce had words with Scirotto going into the locker room.
Illinois shot 46.2 percent (12 for 26) in the half and 2 for 5 (40 percent) from long range.
Malcolm Hill and Tracy Abrams each had eight points to lead the Illini.
Kendrick Nunn and Rayvonte Rice had six apiece.
Indiana shot 34.8 percent (8 for 23) from the floor and 6 for 10 from three. Sheehey led the way with 11 points, Yogi Ferrell had 10.
Indiana won the rebounding battle 12-11. The Hoosiers turned it over nine times, leading to 13 Illinois points. The Illini had 16 points in the paint. Indiana had two. The Hoosiers had just two two-point field goals.
No. 9 Illinois 9, No. 8 Indiana 8 — 11:36 first half
Jaylon Tate made his first appearance since the Michigan State game on March 1. His first possession didn’t go so well as he and the Illini forgot the shot clock was under 10 seconds coming off the out of bounds.
It was a shot clock violation with no attempt at a shot.
Like they did at Michigan State to Adreian Payne, Illinois is doubling Noah Vonleh when he touches the ball. Nnanna Egwu had blocked shots on two of Indiana’s first three possessions.
The cream Indiana uniforms look really bad with pristine white t-shirts underneath.
Lots of crimson in the stands here. The building is about 65 percent full. Grown men wearing candy-striped pants, too.
Kendrick Nunn began the game guarding Stanford Robinson. Tracy Abrams drew Yogi Ferrell.
Indiana missed its first nine shots. Some were bunnies. Three were blocked by Nnanna Egwu.
Will Sheehey’s jumper at 14:20 was the first bucket of the game for the Hoosiers. Illinois led 9-0.
The Illini moved the ball very well early, but it got bogged down a little bit after that initial spurt.
Tracy Abrams to Larry Scirotto after a questionable foul went against him: “Come on, man.”
John Groce had a conversation with Lamont Simpson about something going into the under-12 timeout. It appeared to be civil, though Groce was lobbying for something for his team.
No. 9 Illinois (18-13, 7-11) vs. No. 8 Indiana (17-14, 7-11) — Tipoff (BTN)
The families of the Illinois players and coaches are seated right behind me. That's opposite the team bench.
Former Illinois football player Supo Sanni is here working for the Big Ten.
The Illini will start the regulars: Tracy Abrams, Kendrick Nunn, Rayvonte Rice, Malcolm Hill and Nnanna Egwu.
Indiana Counters with Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, Jeremy Hollowell, Will Sheehey and Noah Vonleh. The Big Ten Freshman of the Year Vonleh returns to the starting lineup after missing two games and coming off the bench for the season finale against Michigan. Vonleh has a foot issue. They've been careful with him, but he's going to give it a go.
The officials today are Lamont Simpson, Larry Scirotto and Ray Perone. If something were to happen to any of them, Mike Kitts is the backup. Loren Tate is impressed with Larry Scirotto's physique. "Look at the shoulders on that guy, good God! I wonder what he can bench press."
The basketballs being used today are Spalding. Illinois and all the Nike schools use Nike balls. The adidas schools use something else. Illinois practiced this week with Spalding balls.
Brando Paul is here seated with the families. I believe it's the first game he's attended this year. Maybe he'll bring the Illini some opening-round luck. His buzzer-beater last year against Minnesota sent Illinois into the quarterfinal.
No. 9 Illinois (18-13, 7-11) vs. No. 8 Indiana (17-14, 7-11) — 11 a.m. (BTN)
One of the more interesting things to watch at the conference tournament is the way the Big The officials guard the basketballs. The players aren't allowed to touch the basketballs until exactly one hour before posted game time. So when the Illinois and Indiana players took the court at about 9:45, they could stretch and do whatever they needed to do, but come anywhere near the rack of balls and you would be accosted as if you tried to walk through airport security with a gun.
Last year Brandon Paul had some fun with it pretending to grab a basketball.
Will Sheehey shot air free throws today, Yogi Ferrell rode a stationary bike. He also had a brief conversation and shared a man hug with Illinois assistant Paris Parham.
While all that was going on, Illinois assistant Dustin Ford was sitting down with Indiana play-by-play legend Don Fischer. Ford has the scout for this game.
Indiana is going through one of those physically demanding presume workouts. Still can't believe they have any energy for the games.
Hope you got a chance to read the story on Malcolm Hill this morning. It's linked on this page.
Hill didn't play particularly well at Iowa, I'd expect him to be better today.
"I've struggled lately, 0 for 6 last game, I'm not going to let that faze me," Hill said.
Hill's classmate Kendrick Nunn was named to the Big Ten's All-Freshman team this week. When asked about his buddy's emergence, a wide smile took over Hill's face.
"I'm happy for him, especially how he's come so far, wasn't playing much, now he's on the All-Freshman team," Hill said.
Indiana is wearing a uniform different than the traditional threads they've worn for year. They're calling them the "Hurryin' Hoosiers" uniform. The uniform is cream with crimson letters and numbers. They feature some lightweight, sweat-wicking technology.
Be back soon.
No. 9 Illinois (18-13, 7-11) vs. No. 8 Indiana (17-14, 7-11) — 11 a.m. (BTN)
Good morning from beautiful Bankers Life Fieldhouse where the Illini are playing the opening game of the Big Ten tournament for the third consecutive year. Illinois' season came to an end in the 8-9 game in 2012 in this building with also to Matt Gatens and Iowa, and so did Bruce Weber's tenure as the Illini head coach. Last year No. 8 Illinois beat No. 9 Minnesota on a Brandon Paul buzzer beater at the United Center in Chicago.
One thing you don't have to worry about today is Illinois not making it to the arena. The team hotel is closer in proximity to Bankers Life Fieldhouse than the I Hotel is to State Farm Center. They're still going to board the bus regardless, but if there's a traffic jam during the 0.1 mile trip, they can just get out and walk to the arena.
I'll have to ask director of operations Mark Morris if he was responsible for getting the primo hotel location. He's really good at his job.
We should know about the status of backup point guard Jaylon Tate sometime before the ball goes up. Tate has missed the last two games with an ankle injury he suffered late in the win at Michigan State. In his absence Mike LaTulip played seven minutes in the loss to Michigan. In the season finale at Iowa, Rayvonte Rice played some stretches at point guard when starter Tracy Abrams needed a break. John Groce said Tuesday that they held him out of practice Monday, though he probably could have gone. Tate was expected to practice Tuesday and Wednesday.
Former Illini Stephen Bardo will be the color analyst for this game along with play-by-play man Kevin Kugler.
If the Illini win, they'll get Mike Tirico, Dan Dakich and Allison Williams on ESPN or ESPN2. Saturday and Sunday's games will be handled by the CBS crew of Jim Nantz, Greg Anthony and Steve Kerr.
The BTN "Journey" crew is already on the scene doing their thing. Bill Friedman, the show's executive producer, spent some time chatting me and Brian Barnhart. Friedman seems to be a big fan of Kendrick Nunn. He's a Danville native, so he's been in tuned with all things Fighting Illini for a long time.
A loss today would be the first for John Groce in a conference tournament opener as a head coach. He won two Mid-American Conference titles during his four years at Ohio.
Just noticed there's a video board attached to the scoreboard that is about 50 feet wide. Think Jerry World, but smaller, of course. That wasn't here two years ago.
I'm going to roam around for a while. I'll update you again soon.